JavaGami is a software
environment for designing
This pop-up book is part of an
exhibition by the Smithsonian
Libraries at the National Museum of
American History that traces the
development of paper engineering
from the 14th century to modern times.
Paper engineering is a readily accessible subset of craft technologies. Folding and cutting construction paper or
cardstock to create pop-ups, mechanical models, and other creations offers
a gateway to the larger world of craft
Teachers can introduce paper engineering with simple tools, such as
scissors and card stock or construction paper. Design challenges involving physical construction, such as developing packaging for a product with
the least amount of surface area, can
introduce science and mathematics in
an engaging context.
Classroom construction of paper
airplanes is a similar activity with
a rich history that has many connections to science, mathematics,
and engineering. Change Agents
for Teaching and Learning Statistics
(CATALST) at the University of Minnesota offers one of many examples
that illustrate ways that teachers can
connect this type of activity to classroom objectives (see Resources).
Students of all ages can find this activity rewarding and engaging. More
important, it can anchor mathematical abstractions to physical models in
ways that can lead to deeper understanding of underlying concepts.
A new class of paper-engineering
software designed for schools, including FabLab ModelMaker (Aspex),
Fab@School Designer (FableVision),
Diorama Designer and Community
Construction Kit (Tom Synder Productions), and JavaGami, is now emerging.
JavaGami, for example, is a free
software application for designing paper models using polyhedral folding
nets developed by the Craft Technology Group at the University of Colorado at Boulder. You can either design
your own models or download models
that others have created from a gallery
on the Craft Technology website.
For more about the history of paper
engineering, visit the Smithsonian
Libraries website (see Resources). The
site features video that animates innovative pop-up and movable books.
The federal government has initiated
the Manufacturing Experimenta-
tion and Outreach (MENTOR) pro-
gram to build the next generation of
manufacturing innovators at the high
school level. Participating students
will engage in a distributed design
and manufacturing experiment us-
ing social media to collaborate across
schools to design and build autono-
Craft Technology Group: http://l3d.cs.colorado.
Craft Technology videos: www.youtube.com/
National Technology Leadership Summit:
Smithsonian paper engineering exhibit: http://
Glen Bull is co-director of the
Center for Technology &
Teacher Education in the
Curry School of Education
at the University of Virginia.
Bull serves as a volunteer
columnist for L&L.
Robert Berry is a professor of mathematics education in the Curry School of Education at he University of Virginia.